Why Do We Never Talk About Mental Health In The Fashion Industry?
A message that rings through the ears of just about every middle school girl as she walks through the dark hallways littered with eyes that seem to judge every move she makes and word she says. Unfortunately, this phrase seems to never quite leave throughout the rest of life, either. But where does this message come from? Were we born with it or is it taught to us through outlets . . . such as the fashion industry?
Why is it that mental health is linked to every part of everyone's lives, yet it is something that is rarely talked about, especially in the fashion industry? Diving deeper into the other side of the industry, it is easy to see why consumers have mental health problems when all the glitz and glam is stripped away.
Fashion should make us feel beautiful. Not only does wearing an outfit that makes you feel confident, make you stand straighter and appear more poised, but it also allows you to express parts of you to everyone around you.
However, the industry needs to change in order for the mental health of consumers to change. It needs to change how billboards portray how women should act and who to please. To change the color, size, and shapes of models that walk the runway. To change the way society as a whole judges young individuals, for better or worse, by how they look. Yet, mental health problems, go a lot deeper than the teens who buy the clothes. The issues start at the top and trickle down to the customers. When unhappy designers design clothes to give to overstressed workers who then sell to greedy buyers who then hand them over to depressed salespeople, it is no wonder that the consumers do not feel inspired or beautiful in that garment. So why is this detrimental cycle persisting? Is this how it will always be? Have we forgotten the beauty of making people feel special with fabric, textiles, and a couple buttons and replaced it with stressful jobs and quotas?
You do not have to look far to see the effects that stress has on people of all stages in the industry. Hearts broke when it was announced that Kate Spade hung herself with one of her scarves. While many blamed her selfishness or greed, one cannot deny that mental health had a lot to do with it. In fact, her husband announced that, “Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with doctors to treat her disorder. … There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn't her. There were personal demons she was battling”. Then, there are major designers leaving their brands because of stress and overconsumption of time such as Oscar de la Renta, Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli at Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren. And the pressure does not start when one becomes successful, evidenced by a student at Antwerp’s Fashion Academy, who killed himself because of stress at the renown fashion school, before he even entered the industry. So why is it that the toxicity of this world on mental health is rarely addressed?
Together, we can all make little changes that will add up to a brand new industry that stops putting pressure on professionals to strive to make more money at the expense of their families. One that tells students to be kids and put health first. One that does not glamorize unhealthy eating habits that force young girls to say they are not hungry. Imagine how much more productive we as an industry can be if we sold garments because they made target demographics feel confident instead of targeting them, making them feel horrible about themselves so that they buy products.
At the end of the day, fashion is fashion and it is important to many people, but not because celebrities wear shoes, people feel the need to waste money, or because they feel inferior compared to the NYFW models, but because it is where we find ourselves. However, people are more important. There should never be an instance where one’s health is an afterthought because of stress from this industry. Mental health needs to be not only discussed more, but advocated for. If directors and executives promote a healthy mindset, the people that buy their products will feel that and maybe there will be less people saying, “But I’m not good enough”.